Finding Your Dream Wedding Dress on a Budget:
Best Time of Year to Buy a Wedding Dress
Your wedding dress is likely going to be the most important and expensive piece of your entire wedding look. But just because you want the dress of your dreams doesn’t mean you have to spend a small fortune to get it. If you time your dress shopping right, you can find incredible deals and steals on gorgeous gowns.
Read on to learn insider tips on when and how to shop for the best discounts on your dream wedding dress. With smart planning and savvy shopping, you can feel like a princess on your big day without paying a king’s ransom!
Why Off-Season Months Are Best for Affordable Wedding Dresses
The number one tip for finding cheap wedding dresses is to shop in the off-season. The most popular months for weddings are May through October. That means dress shops anticipate high demand for gowns during those months and stock up on inventory.
Come November, most brides have already gotten their dresses. That’s when shops start sales to clear out inventory and make room for new collections. The deepest discounts happen in January through April, which are the least popular wedding months.
During the off-season, you’ll find massive markdowns, blowout sales, and clearance racks full of gorgeous discounted gowns. Shopping in the off-season can save you several hundred dollars compared to peak season!
Scope Out Early Spring Sales
Late winter and early spring can be a deal-hunter’s paradise for wedding dresses. Many bridal salons refresh their inventory in late winter and hold sales to clear out last season’s styles. Look for sales starting in January and new gown arrivals in February and March.
You can score discounts of 50-75% off during early spring bridal sales! Even though you won’t see the absolute newest collection yet, you can find a gorgeous dress in a timeless style for a fraction of retail cost.
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Ask About Sample Sales
Bridal shops often hold special sales to sell off their floor sample dresses. These gowns have been tried on many times, but they are still in excellent condition. Sample sales offer deep discounts off retail, sometimes up to 80% off!
Call your local shops to ask if they have any upcoming sample sales. You can also check wedding resale sites and consignment shops, which often acquire sample dresses from salons. Just be sure to have your measurements handy—you’ll want to confirm the sample size will fit before purchasing.
Look for Trunk Shows and Out-of-Season Events
Bridal designers hold traveling trunk shows at local salons to showcase new collections. Though trunk shows happen year-round, they tend to avoid peak wedding season so as not to compete with regular inventory.
Ask salons about any trunk shows or special events happening in the late winter and early spring. You may be able to pre-order gowns from brand new collections for a fraction of what you’d pay during wedding season. Even if you miss pre-order discounts, new collections are marked down during off-season events.
Shop Online for Price Comparison and Coupons
Online retailers can offer huge savings on wedding dresses compared to local boutiques. Make sure to compare prices both online and offline to score the very best deal. Also look for online coupon codes to save even more.
Popular online dress shops like Azazie regularly run winter sales with stacked coupons at their lowest prices of the season. Carefully check return policies before purchasing, and leave time for alterations once the dress arrives.
How to Snag Out-of-Season Deals From Local Bridal Salons
Your local bridal salon wants your business, even if you’re shopping off-season. Here are insider tips for scoring coveted dresses at the steepest possible discounts from local retailers:
High-end bridal gowns often have markup well over 200%. Even on sale dresses, there is ample room for stores to negotiate. Don’t be shy about making a lower offer, especially if you spot a dress you love online for less. Stores want the sale, so see if they’ll work with you on a better price.
Ask About Price Matching
Some salons are willing to price match competitors or online stores. Make sure to check return policies – local shops will almost always exchange dresses more easily than ecommerce sites. Price matching can help ensure you get the very lowest price with great customer service.
Book During Weekdays or Off-Hours
Weekends are prime bridal shopping time with staff occupied assisting customers. For more attentive service and the manager’s best price, book your appointments on weekday evenings or other off-peak hours when stores tend to be slower.
Bring a Posse for Perspective
Bring a few loved ones along to offer their perspective when you try on dresses. But limit your posse to 2-3 opinionated but supportive members who will be honest. Too many voices could overwhelm you. Focus on how the dress makes YOU feel while considering input.
Negotiate Add-Ons Too
From veils to petticoats, add-ons jack up your total price. Negotiate extras like accessories along with your dress discount. Ask about package deals the store can offer to combine veil, jewelry, etc. for a better overall savings.
Act Fast for the Best Selection
Dress discounts get steeper the longer gowns go unsold. But that means selection dwindles too. Hit those off-season sales early for the best choice of sizes, styles and designers before inventory sells out.
With the right timing and smart negotiating tactics, you can find gorgeous wedding dresses at amazing prices during the off season. Just follow these tips to shop savvy and save big on your dream gown.
More Tips for Affording Your Dream Wedding Dress
Your gown likely makes up a significant chunk of your overall wedding budget. Here are more great tips for affording your perfect dress without draining your wallet:
Set a Realistic Budget
Have an honest conversation with your partner about what you can reasonably afford to spend. A gown budget between $1,000-$2,000 is typical, but aim lower if you’re on a tight budget. There are gorgeous dresses under $1,000 if you look.
Consider a Shorter Dress
Long gowns almost always cost more. But short and tea length dresses are hugely popular. Hemlines above the ankle can shave $100-$300+ off the price of a similar style floor length gown.
Look for Separates
Bridal separates mix and match cropped tops with skirts in an endless array of combinations. You can often score separates for less than a traditional gown. Plus, you may re-wear pieces later!
Don’t Overlook Modest Options
Modest wedding dresses with higher necks, long sleeves and more coverage tend to cost less than low-cut styles. And you can always add a sparkly jeweled belt to accentuate your waist.
Shop Your Own Closet
Check your closet and consignment stores for gowns you could repurpose. A chic white bridesmaid dress or guest gown you get tailored can make a stunning unique wedding dress on a tiny budget.
Rent Instead of Buying New
For a few hundred dollars, you can rent a gorgeous designer wedding gown in like-new condition. Sites like Rent the Runway offer thousands of dresses to choose from at a fraction of retail cost.
Go for a More Affordable Silhouette
Ballgowns and full skirts almost always cost more than sleeker sheaths and mermaid gowns using less material. The silhouette of the dress significantly impacts the price.
Consider a Casual or Non-Wedding Dress
Shop at bridal outlets, boutiques, department stores and specialty sites for stylish white or ivory dresses under $500. Adding bridal accents can transform any chic dress into wedding-worthy style.
The Perfect Timeline for Finding Your Wedding Dress
With the right timeline, you can keep your dream dress search stress-free and successful.
Start dress shopping at least 9-12 months before your wedding. This gives time for ordering, tailoring and delays.
Off-season dress shopping starts in November. Shop January – April for the best deals.
Make appointments before peak bridal season fills up (February – April).
Try to find your dress 6-8 months out. After that, popular sizes may be sold out.
Schedule fittings 6-8 weeks before the wedding at each stage of alterations.
Leave 1-2 weeks before the wedding for final alterations, pressing and pickup.
Don’t Despair If You’re Running Short on Time
Ideally you’ll find your dress during an off-season sale around 6-9 months before your wedding. But with short notice, you CAN still find dreamy dresses at discounted prices!
For last minute shopping:
- Check bridal outlet and flash sale sites for budget-friendly in-stock gowns.
- Call local consignment and resale shops for great lightly worn options.
- Ask any salons with unsold inventory if they’ll negotiate on remaining dresses.
- Communicate time constraints clearly so staff can expedite order and alterations.
Rushing increases stress but vendors want happy brides, so they’ll often oblige short timelines when possible. Stay flexible and you can find a gorgeous dress even booking on short notice!
Do Your Homework Before Shopping To Buy a Wedding Dress
To make your dream dress search smoother, do some homework ahead of time:
- Research gown silhouettes to decide what styles you prefer. This helps narrow options.
- Study celebrity and influencer dresses for inspiration on styles you love.
- Browse gown inspiration on designer websites and bridal blogs.
- Read online reviews of local shops to find a salon that matches your style.
- Know your budget range before ever trying on a dress.
- Bring helpful inspo photos and your budget range to appointments.
With the right information in hand, you’ll spot your dream gown more efficiently. Consult your notes to stay on track to find a dress you adore within your ideal budget.
Trust the Bridal Salon Experience
The most brilliant thing about working with the experts at a bridal salon is – you DON’T have to know exactly what you want! Skilled bridal consultants have dressed hundreds of brides. They’ll ask about your vision and take measurements to pull dresses they believe will flatter.
With an open mind, relax and try the selections they bring you even if it’s not a style you pinned. The beauty of the bridal salon experience is discovering new silhouettes and details you didn’t picture that end up being perfect for your big day.
By pairing the consultant’s expertise with your own style intuition, you’re sure to recognize the dress of your dreams the moment you see yourself in it.
Don’t Overlook These Important Details
As you’re shopping, don’t forget these essential elements alongside your gown:
Don’t forget the veil! The right veil completes your bridal look.
Have quality undergarments on hand to get the full picture as you try on gowns.
Wear nude footies close to your wedding shoe height for an accurate hem length.
Try on each dress fully from top to bottom for the complete effect.
Walk, sit and move around in gowns to test comfort and mobility.
Envision the full look with makeup, hair, and accessories to see the complete bridal style.
Take photos and video from all angles to review your top contenders later.
Narrow down to 2-3 favorites you can comparison shop for the best price.
Finding your dream wedding dress takes time, patience…and strategy! By following these tips to shop off-season sales and negotiate with retailers, you can discover a breathtaking gown that makes you look and feel like the princess you are on your special day.
Trust the process, keep an open mind, and don’t settle. When you find THE dress, you’ll know it in your heart and see it in your smile. Happy wedding dress shopping! Your perfect gown awaits…